‘Be patient,’ Indian Man in the Know reassured me some time ago. ‘It will come, the monsoon. You will get your experience. And when it comes, you will soon wish it hadn’t, when it stops you doing all the things you want to do…’
I watch BBC World Weather religiously, BBC World News being the only worthwhile channel my TV package allows. I have followed the Monsoon over the summer and seen Maharashtra and Bombay pelted with flood-inducing showers, Gujarat and West Bengal overwhelmed by water, other parts of India sporadically soaked to the bone and even got a flavour of it myself in Nepal. But Kerala, especially south of its capital Trivandrum, remained tinder dry until now with the onset of Retreating Monsoon heralded by the weather men.
And indeed, as Newton’s Law predicts that things that go up have to come down, the upwards progress of the Monsoon in a Northerly direction is eventually thwarted by North-Easterly winds sending it back downwards towards Kerala, which in normal years gets a double whammy of Monsoon rains with no respite in between: six months of rains stretching from about June until November. Enormous dark grey clouds build up during the day, filling the atmosphere with unbearable humidity which makes my skin glow with moisture and trickle with perspiration. And late afternoon and evening, when the clouds can no longer hold their water, the downpour begins… Ear-deafening cracks of thunder chase after blinding flashes of lightning, hot on the heels of gushing water from the leaden sky.
And monsoon rains inevitably go hand in hand with power cuts! Three times last Thursday night the house was plunged into complete darkness, any moonlight obscured by rain clouds and every street lamp in the vicinity smothered. Everything blacker than black. I was lucky first time round and had the light from my iPad to find my way to my torch and candles. My little torch is a wind-up one, which is very useful as it saves me having to buy batteries. Unfortunately, I have not been able to work out yet how to dislodge the winding lever from its ‘permanently stuck’ position and the light is growing dimmer with each power cut. And when the electricity finally comes back, I usually have better things to do than to search the internet for a solution and then rue my forgetfulness the next time when the electricity fails.
So when on Thursday my iPad retired into sleeping mode and extinguished its light, I resorted to candles… I fumbled with the sodden matches when I finally found them, damp and limp from the lingering moisture in the house. I tried in vain to get them to light, striking against the box time and again, only for the little sticks to break and the sulphur at the top to crumble. When I eventually extorted a flickering flame, the room suddenly exploded in a brilliance of light as electricity surged again. I left the candle burning just a little while, until I felt the menace of power cuts had vanished. But no sooner did I blow out the candle, than the power disappeared yet again. It happened twice, exactly the same… And as the rain continued unabated, I gave up in the end and went to bed, early, very early.. There was no point in attempting to follow a film on TV and the news had certainly not changed for quite a while. I took my book for company and thought that in bed at least I would not have to go on a hunt for light sources when the next power cut doused all the bulbs; I would be in the right place for a long, good night’s rest… Maybe power would be restored by the time my alarm went off. And as the temperature in my bedroom dipped below 30 degrees and things turned nippy, I slowed the fan down a notch or two and searched for a blanket to cover my icy feet…
I shared my woes with ‘Indian Man In the Know’ who raised his eyebrows. ‘A lighter…,’ he suggested, as he inhaled the smoke of yet another cigarette. ‘They do have them in India and at home we used an oil lamp and turned down the wick in between the power cuts. You can be guaranteed there will always be more!’ How very true!
And indeed, the monsoon plays havoc with daily life and my plans… I have arrived late at school, not just Indian late, but at least half an hour late because the roads were blocked and everyone was trying to navigate around the floods. And Thursday, the third Thursday in a row, I did not venture to the gym for my workout. Somehow, I did not fancy getting wet on my way TO the gym, as well as AT the gym, and then again ON the bus back from the gym…. I stayed at home and watched the rain, and a little later on my way to buy groceries, I waded through all the deliciously deep puddles and wished I could go back in time to the days I took my children out in their wellies and we all jumped and splashed in the puddles…